Private sector recruitment in Oman ‘unfair and unacceptable’
January 9, 2017 | 10:17 PM
by Rejimon K/Chief Reporter [email protected] Shruthi Nair/[email protected]

Muscat: Oman’s private sector has been called out over its hiring of Omanis, branded ‘unfair and unacceptable’ in an exclusive interview with Times TV.

The criticism came from Tawfiq Al Lawati, Majlis Al Shura member and Tanfeedh participant, who lambasted bosses for not stepping up to the recruitment mark over the past five years.

He said resistance still existed to employing Omanis, but also said that one policy discussed by Tanfeedh, which aims to diversify and revive Oman’s economy, was to allow managers to ‘hire and fire’ citizens in a bid to remove one of the perceived negatives.

Speaking live on Times TV Al Lawati said: “During the last five years, around 650,000 jobs were created in the private sector in Oman. However, only 16,000 Omanis got recruited. “This means that around 3,000 Omanis were only recruited by private sector (per year). It is unfair and unacceptable.”

He accused the private sector of ‘not playing an active role in Oman’ even though their lifeblood is government-funded projects.

“Private sector should fulfil its responsibility.

“Yet it has not done enough. They should be more responsible. There is no space for jobs in the government sector.”

Al Lawati comments were part of a broader interview on the State Budget 2017 and how Oman can move its economy forward this year. One area where he again suggested jobs could be freed up for the tens of thousands of graduates coming into the employment market this year was ending the careers of those who had reached retirement age.”

“Let it be Omani or expatriate whoever reached retirement age should be moved out. We know that extensions are given in many case for five years and even 10 years.”

He argued that if companies could dismiss Omani employees who proved to be unproductive or disruptive then bosses may be far more willing to recruit.

“Many think that hiring an Omani is a liability. We should think how to change liability into asset.

“We should have a hire and fire policy. Government and private sector should be given the right to hire and fire Omanis.

“Private sector should take responsibility to provide jobs for Omanis, but if there is a mismatch they should have the liberty to fire the Omani.

“Currently it’s difficult. It becomes liability and it can draw legal consequences,

“We need to amend these laws. This was discussed in Tanfeedh on how to make private sector more dynamic but at the same time it doesn’t take away their responsibilities too.”

Also read: Omanisation in construction to drop to 10% in proposed law

Reacting to Al Lawati’s remarks, Ahmed Al-Hooti, a member of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), said: “There are two issues in this case. The first problem is that our private sector is small and not as large as the country is. We are only focusing on some of the sectors that pay more, like oil and gas. Omanis are only interested in jobs that pay more, jobs that are secure. Most educated Omanis are only looking into these sectors and the private sectors cannot pay a lot for these jobs.”

“Omanis are only focusing on some of the sectors, and not willing to look into other industries. For example, nobody wants to work in construction.

“Companies do not focus on the training that is required to get quality Omanis to work. Some people only have secondary schooling and want a low profile job. To employ an Omani, it costs around OMR 350 – OMR 400 compared to around OMR150 for expats, there is a big gap for the same job.”

“Another problem is that we don’t encourage our youth to be owners. If you look into most SMEs with Omani names, the leaders of those companies are foreigners. We must encourage our people to work in the private sector in any field and any job regardless of pay amount and standards. Omanis can work, but the environment is not helpful. If you look at some Small and Medium Enterprises, you can see so many success stories because of the healthy environment.” Nadeem Al Balushi, a senior Omani banker, said: “Omanis can contribute a lot to the country’s growth, however what I see is that if they are not being hired as much in the private sector; it’s probably because they are not giving that extra effort. We as Omanis need to push our limits and show that we can work, whether the times are good or bad.

“What I see is that if someone is educated or not educated, they can’t accept just any job, they usually demand well paid jobs and that is hard to happen. I had hired an Omani driver sometime back, and he was turning up late or giving the regular excuses for being absent, I think we need to overcome that because if I were a businessman, I wouldn’t be able to afford that.

“The good thing is that I see things are changing around me, Omanis have improved a lot and are emerging as leaders in various corporate organizations. So the future looks bright,” said Nadeem Al Balushi, a senior banker.

Alkesh Joshi, Director, Tax Advisory Services Division, of Ernst and Young, said; “I think the jobs that are created do not match with the available talent or the available resources. Therefore it is important that the government or the educational institutes realign their course offering, or the government encourages people to take up courses for which there are jobs. “The labour law already provides for provisions to retrench Omanis, but the companies should follow these laws, because whether it is an expat or an Omani, the law is the same. “Even expats can go the labour courts, but because the court system is in Arabic and you need to hire a lawyer to navigate the system so most expats avoid doing that.”

Ramanuj Venkatesh, Assistant Manager (Accounts), Larsen and Toubro, said the private sector should turn to students for their next recruits.

“Considering the fact that Oman’s government has introduced austerity measures in this hard hit economic recession, private sectors should conduct campus interviews.

“Companies need to now source fresh talent from institutions and provide them with on the job training and internships. Private sectors have not hired more, considering the costs of training and placement interview to be conducted, since budgets are a concern for the private sector.”

Mohammad Kabir Ahmed, managing director of United Dreams LLC, has said that we would love to hire Omanis but not many are available to work in the construction sector. “That is one of the reason we are hiring expats,” he said.

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